Jewelry Artist Kat Cole finds inspiration for her work in the most unlikely of places; demolition sites and the urban landscape in decay. She sees beauty and potential latent in abandoned industrial areas, the cycling of broke-down buildings into new construction, and how human hands shape and inhabit them all. Her work is informed by her experiences living in different cities, and possesses a unique architectural quality. Here, we’ve asked her to share some contextual details for the body of work now on display at Gallery 360 through Nov 6th:
360: What led you to pursue jewelry? What training did you have that helped usher your practice to where it is today?
KC: I took my first metals class because the ceramics class was full and I was hooked right away. The variety of techniques to learn in the material felt like I could spend a lifetime learning. I have a BFA in Crafts and Material Studies and an MFA in Metals and Jewelry. My training in school helped with both my technical skills and getting some basic understanding of being an artist. And from there it was just living and learning day by day to build to where I am now.
360: How did you come to embrace steel and enamel as your primary materials?
KC: I had been using found materials from an early point and then began using cookie tins and eventually just decided I would start with raw steel to have more fabrication possibilities. I had also been introduced to the idea of enameling on steel at an early point, so that was something I had been experimenting with for a long time before I began working in raw steel and they came together.
360: How do you take inspiration from the built environment and translate that into the finished work?
KC: I do a lot of photographing of my environment, historical research, maps, a lot of visual information. It gets put up around the studio for me to look at and contemplate, eventually elements make their way into the work.
360: Your jewelry has a distinctly architectural quality to it, have you ever studied building design?
KC: No I haven’t, but I love architectural renderings and drawings, and I find many architects respond to the work, which is quite a compliment.
360: You have spoken of your work as being strongly rooted in a sense of place, have you ever been commissioned to make a series in response to a particular city or locale?
KC: Once I made a brooch for the director of a museum that had a famous architect, it was a fun challenge. But while I am coming from inspiration about a specific place, I hope that the themes and forms I’m using can be more broadly appreciated. While details change I find a good deal of the language of architecture is universal, especially in the western world.
360: In your artist statement, you mention the lifecycle of buildings. In an architectural context, lifecycle also refers to the re-use or disposal of materials after a building has been decommissioned. Is the lifecycle of the materials you use in your pieces also a consideration when making the conceptual connection between the built environment and your pieces?
KC: Yes, the number of pieces in this show that include found objects is limited, but finding and incorporating of objects from the places I make work about is a part of that life cycle. I have also been collecting bits from the demolished homes that are at the end of their life cycle, but have yet to figure out how they will come into the work. Sometimes I just have to wait and the right solution for a material or idea will present it self in time.
360: You have recently expanded into creating public art, what is the greatest challenge you face when transposing your ideas from the scale of jewelry to larger sculptural pieces?
KC: It would seem obvious to directly translate some of my jewelry pieces into a larger scale, but it is more complicated than that. Making work about something monumental in the intimate scale of jewelry is one thing, but if the same form is just scaled up, there is the risk of it looking trite or doll house like. Not that that’s a bad thing, but not what I am going for. So the real challenge is to get the same feeling on a small scale as a large, which probably doesn’t mean just making it bigger.
360: Has working architecturally, as in public art, changed the way you relate to buildings? Will you continue to create large, sculptural pieces going forward?
KC: I have been making occasional 2-3ft sized wall work along with the jewelry for most of my career. Going to the 10-12ft outdoor presents a lot of different challenges for materials, space, and tools. I do hope to keep doing some larger work, it is a good stretch. I have yet to make enough of this work to really begin to understand it, but it will be safe to say that my view of architecture will change. I will see it not only as inspiration but also context.
360: How is the collection you have on display at Gallery 360 unique for you?
KC: This is the first time since 2012 that I have had the opportunity to build an entire collection of jewelry and sculpture work around a specific theme and exhibit it. It is also the most of my work that has been on exhibit together since 2012 and am so delighted to have been able to work with Merry and the 360 staff to pull it all together.
360: What advice would you give to emerging artists in your field?
KC: Be active, not just at making work, but at being a participant in the art community. The more people know you and your work together, the more opportunities will find their way to you. I am happy in my studio making, but it is also the creative community that I am a part of that gives me satisfaction and support in my career.
To read more about Kat’s process, visit her blog at; www.kat-cole.com/blog